By COSMAS EZEOHA
In this season of politics, all actions and inactions are bound to yield various interpretations and reactions. And so has the suspension of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Sanusi Lamido Sanusi by President Goodluck Jonathan.
For this particular case, reactions have been deservedly massive, running the gamut of those who think the suspension is well deserved to those who think it is a witch-hunt and others who simply dubbed it an act of illegality. But unfortunately many of the reactions have been daubed in partisan colours.
The questions a disinterested observer would ask are: Has Sanusi done anything to deserve the boot? Has he acted in any way unworthy of the lofty office of the CBN governor? In trying to answer these questions, I would like to put in perceptive various strands of opinions canvassed in reactions to the governor’s suspension. Some have argued that given the critical re-engineering work he has done on the Nigerian banking system, which they say pulled the system back from the brink, he does not deserve what he got. Another group is of the view that the President took the action as a punitive measure against the governor for daring to expose the NNPC’s alleged diversion of crude oil earnings. A case of trying to silence the whistleblower they allege. The third group thinks that the president over-arched its powers in the suspension citing the CBN Act which stipulates that the governor of the apex bank could be removed only when such proposal is backed by two-third majority of the Senate.
However, a close analysis of the issue that led up to this suspension saga does not justify some of the aforementioned positions. Going back to the genesis of this matter, let us look at Sanusi’s letter to the President alleging that $49.8 billion had been diverted by the NNPC. The inconsistency in the figures he projected at different times is a clear indication that the governor did not do his homework well. The CBN in matters of the economy is seen as an oracle whose words should be unimpeachable. Sanusi should have done all the necessary crosschecking before coming out with the allegation that such humongous amount had been diverted. Even to the most unschooled mind, it is difficult to believe that such hefty sum could just be stashed away in under two years with the hope that nobody would find out. We should give even thieves some credit. I cannot imagine that happening in Nigeria or any other country. It is simply unimaginable. I have wondered introspectively what was actually in the governor’s mind when he came up with such charge. Even when concerned government agencies had done reconciliations, he stuck to his gun, only amending his figures to $12 billion (as against $10.8 billion agreed by the reconciliation team) before raising it up again to $20 billion. Up till today, he has not come up with any particular final figure on the missing amount neither is there any proof that the money was actually diverted.
In the second place, it challenges the imagination as to why he should choose to go through a leaked letter to the president to seek the correction of an improper process in the administrative system of the government and its institutions. As a member of the President Jonathan’s Economic Management Team, I believe that there are other neater avenues of communicating or correcting an observed anomaly. First, I think he should have contacted NNPC to ask the necessary questions and demand requisite answers. He could have liaised with the Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and or Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezanni Alison-Madueke, if his contact with the NNPC did not yield necessary information. That way he could have cleared some of his doubts or concerns, if not all. The actions of the suspended CBN governor and the glaring inconsistences in his allegations smack of a man in hurry to carry out an obvious political agenda – discrediting Jonathan’s Presidency.
Another critical question, which bears being asked here is about the propriety of the central bank to expend about $1 billion on donations and projects in areas outside its immediate mandate, without appropriation or approval by Bureau of Public procurement (BPP). The suspended governor has tried to justify the bank’s foray into building hotels, donating to flood victims and higher institutions in some parts of the country without appropriation. But there are some problems here. If the CBN can just spend such huge amount of money on projects not directly related to its major function of macroeconomic management and regulating the financial system without appropriation or control, then it should well be an alternate government. I am not aware of any other jurisdiction where the CBN governor acts with such wide powers, which make it to literarily usurp the functions of the executive proper. This is simply CBN independence taken too far.
It is equally strange that a central bank governor would constitute itself as the chief traducer of the government under which he serves. I daresay that Sanusi’s vituperations and open criticisms against the government he serves under as a senior member of the economic team cannot easily be fathomed. There are internal mechanisms I believe for members of an administration to concerns about an about issues that concerns it without recourse to rabble rousing as Sanusi was wont to. If for any reason such an official finds it unbearable to continue with the government under the extenuating circumstances, it is incumbent on him or her to voluntarily resign rather than consistently work against the interests of the very administration he is supposed to serve.
I also find it all together disagreeable to hear even some of our legislators argue that the former CBN governor deserves commendation and not suspension because of the good work he has done on the banking system. I do not know whether by this they are suggesting that crimes should be overlooked on the basis of past good behavior? He may have done well in some aspects of his job, but that does not make him less culpable for any misdemeanor in the course of his work.
Ideally, the CBN governor should weigh his words and actions very well in order to maintain the integrity of the coveted office. Sanusi was too eager to draw the limelight to himself and he on many occasions overarched himself.
By COSMAS EZEOHA